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Obama Slams McCain, McCain Strikes Back; Dancing with the Stars: Who Will Win?

Aired May 16, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, "Dancing With The Stars" -- the countdown underway, the finale three days away.
And who's going to waltz away with the coveted disco ball -- Kristi, Cristian or Jason?

They'll samba through the stress on our stage tonight.

But first, campaign strain -- it's down and dirty and it's a dog fight. Barack Obama has a new target in his sights -- and it's not Hillary.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If George Bush and John McCain want to have a debate about protecting the United States of America, that is a debate that I'm happy to have any time, any place. And that is a debate that I will win.


KING: John McCain gets into the mud.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I welcome a debate about protecting America. You should have known better.


KING: Mike Huckabee puts his foot in his mouth and Michelle Obama takes it on the chin. Republicans versus Democrats -- let's get ready to rumble, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Would you say this has been an interesting election year? What's going to happen tomorrow?

Anyway, our guests in these opening two segments, in New York, James Rubin, who served as assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration; foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton now.

In Washington, Amy Holmes, Republican analyst and CNN political contributor.

And here in Los Angeles, Tanya Acker, a Democratic strategist and Obama supporter.

The senator from Illinois blasted Bush today for comments the president made in Israel.

Watch and then we'll get the comments of our guests.


OBAMA: On a day when were supposed to be celebrating the anniversary of Israel's independence, he accused me and other Democrats of wanting to negotiate with terrorists and said we were appeasers no different from people who appeased Adolph Hitler. That's what George Bush said in front of the Israeli parliament.

Now, that's exactly the kind of appalling attack that's divided our country and that alienates us from the world.


KING: James Rubin, the White House, through Ed Gillespie, said today that the president was not referring to Obama when he made that statement at the Knesset.

Do you buy that?

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: No, I don't. In 2004, George Bush said the same thing about Senator Kerry.

They do it by saying, "some people say," and then on background they say that that's John Kerry. And they're trying to create the classic straw man in politics. By inventing the position that your opponent doesn't have, in this case, the idea that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton want to appease terrorists, and then accusing them -- and this is -- imagine where this is. This is the Israeli Knesset, the country that was created out of the ashes of World War Indiana, the country that was created from the Holocaust.

To call someone an appeaser of Adolph Hitler is about the lowest thing you can call somebody in that setting. And for the president to use that setting for this kind of classic political charge is really a new low of the presidency.

KING: Amy, the word appeasement seems not to apply. Appeasement doesn't mean meeting with someone. It means giving away something. Neville Chamberlain didn't appease Hitler by meeting with him, he appeased him by giving him the Sudetenland.

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's right. But getting back to Jamie Rubin's point, President Bush did not mention Democrats and he did not mention Barack Obama. And I actually take Joe Lieberman's position yesterday when he said that the Illinois senator, "Me thinkest he doth protest too much."

I think what we're getting into here is classic partisan hackery. I talked with a Democratic strategist yesterday as we were leaving this bureau, saying they wish that George Bush would be on the ballot. And I think today in Barack Obama's comments, the dead giveaway was that he said George Bush/John McCain -- that phrase -- at least a dozen times, trying to basically hang George Bush around John McCain's neck.

KING: All right. Tanya, we're going to show another tape here -- Obama accusing McCain of weakness on foreign policy. And McCain hits back.

Watch this and you'll respond.



OBAMA: Our Iran policy is a complete failure right now. And that's the policy that John McCain is running on. He has nothing to offer except the naive and irresponsible belief that tough talk from Washington will somehow cause Iran to give up its nuclear program and support for terrorism.



John McCain You know, it would be a wonderful thing if we lived in a world where we don't have enemies, but that's not the world we live in. And until Senator Obama understands that reality, the American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe.


KING: Tanya?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, SUPPORTS OBAMA: What is remarkable is that Senator McCain would take what Barack Obama said and what he said about perhaps engaging with people with whom we don't agree and turn it into that. Barack Obama has never suggested that we don't have enemies. I mean that's such a disingenuous characterization of the statement.

What I think is interesting from the Republican position and what you see coming out of the White House and the McCain campaign is this really an ahistorical view of American foreign policy.

We have long engaged with people with whom we disagree. John F. Kennedy did it with Nikita Khrushchev when, by the way, there were real weapons of mass destruction pointed squarely on the United States. Richard Nixon did it with China. Ronald Reagan did it with the Soviets.

And now, you know, we're playing this -- or this administration seems to want to play this cowboy and Indians game, which is, you know, it's not a video game. American foreign policy is not a video game. It's much more serious than that. KING: Do you think this has benefited Obama these last few days?

ACKER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean this sort of name calling is simply not going to advance American interests around the world.

KING: We'll have more with our panel right after this.


KING: We're back.

James Rubin, you did an interview with Senator McCain two years ago where he talked about dealing with Hamas.

Let's watch.


RUBIN: Do you think American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past and working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?

MCCAIN: They're the government. And sooner or later, we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another. And I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy toward Hamas. It's because of their dedication to violence and the things they not only espouse, but practice. So -- but it's a new reality in the Middle East.


KING: James, why do you think McCain seemed to take a different tack today?

RUBIN: Well, look, Senator McCain got caught saying one thing two years ago and something else today. Two years ago, he was very open to a Hamas government, talked about how we're going to have to deal with them, talked about what are the ways to engage with them, didn't say what a lot of people said at the time, that there had to be stiff conditions before you deal with Hamas, such as recognition of Israel, such as renouncing of terrorism, such as recognition of previous agreements the Palestinians had applied.

So he didn't say any of that stuff in the interview with me. And two years later, he's running for president and he's adopting a different view. And that's fine. He's allowed to do that. He can adopt a different view. But he should admit that and not make charges to suggest that somehow Barack Obama is the preferred candidate of Hamas.

Those who were most open to Hamas have been, in my experience -- Colin Powell, a year ago, talked about engaging with Hamas. This is a view held in what you might call realist circles in the Republican Party...

KING: All right, Amy...

RUBIN: ...something that John McCain advocated two years ago. Now he's trying to run away from it.

KING: Amy, how do you respond?

HOLMES: Oh, boy, I have to vigorously, vigorously disagree with the whole characterization of this interview. I saw the whole clip. And, Jamie, I saw the follow-up question that you asked Senator McCain. And he said that the U.S. would have to step back and see how Hamas governs. Later that day, he gave an interview with CNN where he said in order to deal with Hamas, there would need to be preconditions, that they would need to renounce violence and they would need to recognize Israel's right to exist.

So I think showing only one half of that interview...

RUBIN: No, no...

HOLMES: gravely misleading...

RUBIN: Excuse me. Don't make that charge.

HOLMES: ...and gravely deceptive.

RUBIN: I didn't show only one half...

HOLMES: I watched it, Jamie, and I read the transcript.

RUBIN: Larry -- Larry, can I respond?

This is what the McCain camp has done today. They've given out phony talking points...

HOLMES: I watched the video myself.

RUBIN: ...these phony talking points and they've called me a liar, can you imagine that?

John McCain has to shoot the messenger. I accurately put out what he said to me in two questions. I gave him a second chance to try to include these conditions. There are no conditions in the interview. Look at the...

HOLMES: Larry, I...

RUBIN: ...look at the text...

HOLMES: ...I encourage all of your viewers to go online...

RUBIN: ...that...

HOLMES: go to YouTube...

RUBIN: Yes, and look online and there are no...

HOLMES: ...and look at the interview for themselves...

RUBIN: ...conditions in... HOLMES: ...and to also watch the interview that John McCain gave later that day to CNN.

KING: OK. All right. Let me get -- I'm sorry. We have time problems tonight.

RUBIN: Larry, I really need to clarify this, because the John McCain camp is trying to shoot the messenger. Look at the clip. Look at the interview.


RUBIN: Look at the Internet. And what you'll see is a man who failed to make the distinction that now he wants to make...

KING: I got you.

RUBIN: He's insisting on conditions...

KING: All right, Tanya...

RUBIN: ...and then he accuses the messenger of lying. It's pathetic.

KING: Tanya, is Obama now running against McCain?

ACKER: Oh, no question. No question. I mean I think...

KING: Hillary -- he's beyond Hillary?

ACKER: I think that Senator Clinton has chimed in, and appropriately so, during various parts of this conversation that we've been having about foreign policy. I think that she appropriately defended Senator Obama, as did other prominent Democrats when George Bush made the incredible claim that talking to people constitutes appeasement.

And, again, I would respectfully agree with Amy. There's no question but we know but who George Bush was talking about.

I mean who else was he talking about?

He was talking about Senator Obama. He was talking about the Democratic position on this.

But, you know, I think that right now, we are seeing this race move from the Clinton/Obama race. It's now become into the general. We're now having a general election conversation and we welcome it.

KING: And is Obama going to run against Bush?

ACKER: McCain is -- McCain has suggested that he wants to be Bush III. You know, he went from -- I mean I...

KING: He disagrees with him strongly on the environment...

ACKER: And he disagrees with him...

KING: Stem cells.

ACKER: He disagrees with him on a few key issues. And I think that a number of people welcome that disagreement. But I think that he's suggested that he wants to continue this administration's economic policy -- its failed economic policies. He wants to continue this administration's failed Iraq War policy. And until very recently, he wanted to stay in Iraq another 100 years. I know that he's since amended that position and now, I understand, the war is going to be done by 2013 and Osama bin Laden will be caught and perhaps we'll all win a million dollars.

KING: All right, we're going to have all of you back very shortly, maybe Monday.

James Rubin, Amy Holmes and Tanya Acker. We're sorry we have limited time tonight because of our "Dancing with the Stars" group.

They're warming up -- Kristi, Jason, Cristian and all the rest. The cast of "Dancing with the Stars" is here and they're next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the three finalists of "Dancing With The Stars." We have had all the finalists on all the years this program has been on.

Let's meet them. They're all here in Los Angeles.

We have Cristian de la Fuente. He is the international film star.

And Jason Taylor, one of my favorite guys, the National Football League's Man of the Year, star of the Miami Dolphins.

And Kristi Yamaguchi, one of the all-time Olympic greats, the Olympic champion figure skater.

OK. What's it been like, Cristian?

CRISTIAN DE LA FUENTE, FINALIST, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Oh, it's been great. It's been a crazy experience. And I'm very happy to be in the finals with them.

KING: Are you glad you did it?

DE LA FUENTE: Yes. I didn't think I was going to be able to make it, especially after I got injured. But, you know, their support and, you know, they're being really supportive and I'm happy that we are all friend and we are all in the finals.

KING: Football players have done well.


KING: Why, do you think?

TAYLOR: I don't know. I think the athleticism kind of translates to the ballroom a little bit.

KING: Is this having...

TAYLOR: (INAUDIBLE) players...

KING: Is this athletics?

TAYLOR: It is, more so than I thought. Coming in, I thought it was kind of -- it's ballroom dancing, that's kind of for girls.


TAYLOR: But it actually is. It's a lot more athletic than I thought. And it takes a lot of determination and discipline and hard work. And I'm completely surprised.

KING: Why did you enter?

TAYLOR: That's a good question. I'm not real sure yet. But it's about over and I'm trying to figure out why I did it. But it was a challenge. I was so afraid of dancing all my life.

I'm the tall, long, awkward guy and didn't think being 6'6" and dancing went together.

KING: Is rehearsals a lot like summer camp?

TAYLOR: No, it's much easier. It is.

KING: Yes?

TAYLOR: Rehearsals are difficult, but you're inside at least. So -- summer camp is the worst.

KING: Kristi, why did you go into this?

KRISTI YAMAGUCHI, FINALIST, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Well, first of all, I was a huge fan of the show. I love watching "Dancing With The Stars." And two young daughters who sit down and watch it with me. And I thought it would just be fun. Everyone who's ever been on it looked like they had a blast. And I was excited to try that experience and learn how to dance.

KING: What, if anything, has surprised you?

YAMAGUCHI: If anything, I think just the toughness of the scheduling. And you don't realize watching it once a week that hey, we do have to learn a new dance. And there's a lot of hours in the studio that it takes up to learn that dance and make it worthy of a performance on live television.

KING: Cristian suffered an injury on "Dancing With The Stars."

Let's watch.


KING: What happened?

DE LA FUENTE: I store the bicep tendon...

KING: In the arm?

DE LA FUENTE: In the arm. My biceps tendon here is ruptured. So, in order to fix it, I need surgery.

KING: After the show is done?

DE LA FUENTE: After the show is done. I have scheduled surgery Friday morning. So I'm going to be very happy. The show ends and then I go into surgery.

KING: Doesn't the injury affect the routine at all?

DE LA FUENTE: No, because I'm very lucky to be dancing with Cheryl, who is a great choreographer. And she's been able to choreograph all of the routines out of the right arm only.

KING: There is always controversy around "Dancing With The Stars." And some people actually said your arm brace isn't even real and TMZ reported it was on the wrong arm.


DE LA FUENTE: Well, the arm brace was gift by Jason, so it's really real. And, you know, I have the head doctors of the Dodger, Neal ElAttrache, who was on live television showing my MRI, my examine.

You know, I'm going into surgery, so how can you fake surgery?

KING: Did you have it on the wrong arm one night?

DE LA FUENTE: No, they flipped -- they flipped the image, because I also have a tattoo on the same arm that my arm is injured. So you also see the tattoo. So I can't flip the tattoo.

KING: Jason, can you vouch for this, as a man who's witnessed and has...

DE LA FUENTE: Look, he saw the arm...

KING: ...been injured?

DE LA FUENTE: He saw the arm.

TAYLOR: I actually saw the injury when it happened. And I told his wife Angelica right away what I thought it was, because I had seen it before in football. And the brace is real. It's -- and it was...

DE LA FUENTE: You have to sign it...

TAYLOR: As far as I know, it's been on the right arm.

DE LA FUENTE: then I can sell it on eBay.

TAYLOR: So I'm going to write "this is real" and sign my name.


KING: By the way, why would you fake it?

DE LA FUENTE: Yes, there's no reason.

KING: What would be the purpose? What do you gain by faking it?

DE LA FUENTE: I would rather...

KING: Sympathy?

DE LA FUENTE: I would rather dance with two arms, you know.


DE LA FUENTE: I'm dancing -- I've been dancing two weeks with only one arm. And especially now with the finals, we have to do all these crazy lifts with the one arm, so.

KING: Have you danced, Jason -- I mean in your...

TAYLOR: In years past, I danced back when I was like 10 years old. I danced a little Michael Jackson deal and I slipped and fell.

DE LA FUENTE: Oh, really?


You see the scar?

DE LA FUENTE: That was for Michael Jackson?

TAYLOR: Yes. That's -- that was the end of it.

KING: You fell, too. OK.

TAYLOR: Yes, I fell.

KING: So you haven't danced...

TAYLOR: I haven't danced since then until about two or three months ago.

KING: Are your teammates having fun with this?

TAYLOR: They are. They're enjoying it, actually. They've been very supportive. But I know when I get back and get back in the locker room and -- there will be plenty of pictures and things going on. KING: Kristi, some people have criticized you with having too much experience going into the competition.

Do you think you have an unfair advantage?

YAMAGUCHI: You know, my experience is on the ice, which is gliding. And we're gliding through a lot of...

KING: It's body movement, though and...

YAMAGUCHI: Yes. I mean I think a lot of us bring different elements of athleticism and entertainment to the show. So I think it evens out. I've, you know, spent as many hours in the studio practicing as everyone else. But it's been a fun experience. I think I'm lucky that the skating fans have been so loyal and have kept me in the competition this long.

KING: How often do you practice, Cristian?

DE LA FUENTE: Oh, we practice every day for eight or nine hours a day, every day. So the schedule is crazy. We wake up and go straight to practice. And we all practice in the same dance studio, so -- then we have a break and say how are you doing -- bad, good, me, too. So let's keep working.

KING: All right, how competitive -- there is no big money here, right?

DE LA FUENTE: No, it's just for...

KING: Why do you do this?

What do you get, a trophy, right?

DE LA FUENTE: Yes. It's for the competition. It's for the challenge, you know. You want to set a challenge in life and then be able to overcome it. And that gives you the satisfaction that you can achieve things in life. So that's priceless.

KING: So, then when they eliminate the others, you're happy?


DE LA FUENTE: Well, no. You're happy because you stay in competition. You're not happy because the others are eliminated and especially in this final. I can speak for the three of us, but anybody who wins, we're all going to be happy. Of course, the one that wins is going to be happier, but we're all going to be very happy.

KING: Why do you do this for no reward other than the reward of doing it?


TAYLOR: Well, we...


Are you going to put it there?

TAYLOR: I've got a couple. But, no, I do want the disco ball or mirror ball, whatever it is. But, you know, it is -- like he said, it's the challenge of doing something that you -- that totally frightens you. And dancing frightens me. It did three months ago and it still does today. But I'm a little more comfortable now doing it and my partner is the best, no offense. But...

DE LA FUENTE: Well, we're going to argue about that.

TAYLOR: Yes, well, I know, because mine is the best. Yours is second. But that's fine.


TAYLOR: But, no, my partner is the best and it's really got me...

DE LA FUENTE: (INAUDIBLE) twice, so that's good.

TAYLOR: That's because they cheated my...


KING: Don't get him mad at you.


DE LA FUENTE: Yes. I've got -- I only have one arm.

TAYLOR: But mine is the best. Yes (INAUDIBLE)...

DE LA FUENTE: He will beat me with three arms.

TAYLOR: ...I don't care.

KING: But as competitive as you are, you want to win?

TAYLOR: Absolutely. Yes, we all like to win. But I couldn't ask for a better group to be in the finals together. Like Cristian said, I'll be happy for either one of them if they win to their face. Then when they leave, then I'll be...


TAYLOR: I'll be mean and bitter.

KING: What's the big difference between dancing on your feet and dancing on skates?

YAMAGUCHI: Well, dancing -- my feet have never moved so fast in my life and...

KING: Faster than skates? YAMAGUCHI: Oh, just staying on the beat to the music. And my partner Mark is always reminding me to count, because I tend to just go with the flow of the music and not stay on every beat. So I think counting the music and moving my feet on every beat and the quickness of it all has been the biggest challenge.

KING: You nervous?

Are you nervous?

YAMAGUCHI: Oh, every time. Oh, yes. I mean you're going in front of live television with millions and millions of viewers.

If you're not nervous, then you're not -- you don't care what you're doing out there so.

KING: Are you nervous, Cristian?

DE LA FUENTE: Yes, always. And I think there I have, you know, in a way, a disadvantage because, you know, I'm not used to the -- facing the adrenaline in a high competition. You know, you play...

KING: He's used to it.

DE LA FUENTE: Yes, the football games, where you were in the Olympics. The hardest thing that I've done is like do a play with a half full theater.

KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we're going to meet their partners.

Who do you want to win "Dancing With The Stars?"

Go to our Web site and vote right now, Still ahead, they're going to dance right here in our studio. Really.

Don't go away.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jason kicked off tonight and made a splash with his flowing foxtrot. With his second dance, he channeled his aggression and powered through his pasodoble.


KING: Oh, they're all going to dance later, by the way.

All right. Our finalists have assembled. Let's meet their partners -- their professional partners.

Cheryl Burke is the two time winner "Dancing With The Stars." she's a three time finalist. And she partners with Cristian.

Edyta Sliwinska has been with the show since it started. And this is her first time as a finalist. Her partner, of course, is Jason.

And Mark Ballas, his second season on the show, first time finalist. His partner is Kristi.

Cheryl, this is old hat to you, right?

CHERYL BURKE, TWO-TIME WINNER, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Yes, but no. You know, it's different working with someone with only one arm, but we are...

KING: No, the one-armed dancer (INAUDIBLE)...

BURKE: The one-armed dancer. But it's been the most...

KING: How good is he?

BURKE: He's amazing. It's been the most challenging, for me, in my career. But he really has done a great job.

KING: Now, when you started, did he have much work to do?

BURKE: Lots of work. Nothing came natural to this Latino man here. But he's come such a long way. And I think having him injured actually made him improve even more.

KING: Edyta, you finally made the finals, huh?


KING: All right. Tell us about working with Jason.

SLIWINSKA: Well, it was very difficult at the beginning. And I didn't have any expectations because I don't really know any dancers that would be as high as Jason.

KING: As what?

SLIWINSKA: As tall, as high. So, basically, I came in thinking that he's going to be very awkward, very unnatural. And I was wrong. He came out to be obviously athletic, but very coordinated. And, you know, he got into the finals and there are some other very good couples that, you know, were eliminated along the way.

KING: Are you a professional dancer?


KING: The fact that he's a football player, did that affect you at all?

SLIWINSKA: It doesn't affect me. I think it actually helped because anyone who does any sports has ability to be coached, has ...

KING: Good point.

SLIWINSKA: Has great discipline, work ethic. So I think that's actually an advantage.

KING: And an actor should know how to be directed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. And he knows how to play the in each dance.

KING: Mark, what about Kristi?

MARK BALLAS, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": Working with Kristi from start to finish has been one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.

KING: Because?

BALLAS: It's just been an honor. From the second I walked up, I remember our first meeting. I was just like - I was a big Olympic fans. I had seen her skate before. I had actually been to one of her ice shows last year and I was just excited about the whole thing. Like Edyta said with Jason, she knows how to take direction, not afraid to try anything. And we had a lot of fun working together.

KING: Was it difficult at the start?

BALLAS: Yes, it's always difficult at the start because you have to learn how to work with somebody you've never met before, you don't know anything about really until you get out there on the floor. And the first couple of weeks are always kind of rough and tumble. But we've had moments where we struggled. And we've had moments where we had lots of fun.

KING: Cristian, tell us about your partner.

DE LA FUENTE: Well, she's very passionate when she dances.

KING: Oh. Cristian, not my business.

DE LA FUENTE: I heard that she's very passionate, I guess. You're passionate. And that passion is good. She takes everything 100 percent.

KING: Why are you laughing, Mark Ballas, come on?

DE LA FUENTE: When she wants to do something, she's not going to stop until it's perfect or close to perfection. So I'm very happy to be working with her. And, also, she's very creative and she's a great choreographer. She has shown it.

KING: So you plan the dance?


KING: What are you going to do for a final?

BURKE: Well, we have got the freestyle and it's been very challenging for me because we have to try and do one-arm lifts. So he doesn't have the advantage of lifting me with two arms. DE LA FUENTE: Emmitt did one.

BURKE: Emmitt Smith did, yes.

KING: What about your partner, Jason?

TAYLOR: She's great. She's taught me so much not only about ballroom dancing but about Polish culture, very smart, intelligent girl, hard worker. And she's done every season, every show, all the tours. I just don't understand how she can keep going on and on and do the season, go to tour, do the season, go to tour. I've been doing it 10 weeks and I'm wore out.

KING: Because you do tour after this -- this show is like ...

SLIWINSKA: Right after the show finishes, we go out on a "Dancing with the Stars" tour. So at this point, we are all exhausted. We've been going on for a long time.

KING: Kristi, what about mark?

YAMAGUCHI: Well, he amazes me in every way, not only just in the ballroom, his creativity, his work ethic. He knows how to push me and when to back off, when I'm kind of like, oh, I can't get it, he knows when to back off, we'll take a break. But not only is he an amazing dancer but an accomplished musician and I respect him in so many ways. I can't believe he's only 21 ...

KING: Twenty-one?

YAMAGUCHI: So talented. Yes, can you believe that? But his sense of humor, I think, is the best. He's just making me laugh all the time.

KING: Is he a hard worker?

YAMAGUCHI: Very much a hard worker. I mean, yes, I make one tiny little -- I don't know, my hand might be turned the wrong way, stop, do it again. Yes, he's a slave driver sometimes.

DE LA FUENTE: Again and again and again. Favorite word. Always again.

KING: What are you doing on final night, Jason?

TAYLOR: We have a freestyle, also. And then we're actually all going to dance -- have a little dance-off.

KING: A dance-off?

TAYLOR: We're going to take the same piece of music and we all have to dance a certain piece to it. Yes.

KING: Freestyle means what, Kristi?

YAMAGUCHI: Freestyle, we all get to pick our own music pretty much and make up a routine. There are no rules, no boundaries, anything goes. You can do lifts. You can do other styles of dance other than ballroom and Latin. So it's really, you know, kind of a free-for-all. We just want to have fun, entertain the crowd and show them you've learned how to dance, basically.

KING: We're going to meet the judges later. It's like a referee. Our celebrities and their partners return and then we're going dancing. But first the judges. They come next.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE all here in Los Angeles, Len Goodman, the renowned ballroom judge of "Dancing with the Stars," former professional dancer himself and dance teacher. He's been a judge on "Strictly Come Dancing." That's the original British version of "Dancing with the Stars."

Bruno Tonioli has been a judge of course with "Dancing with the Stars." he's a dancer and top choreographer, a popular judge on all seasons of "Strictly Come Dancing," the original U.K. version. And it's a delight to see her, Marissa Jaret Winokur, the Tony Award- winning Broadway star best known for her role in the Broadway musical "Hairspray." She's not a judge but she was eliminated last week. She's such a talent, that you will we should have her on.

By the way Carrie Ann Inaba (ph) was supposed to be on but unfortunately she's ill.

Let's start first, Marissa, what was it lake to get knocked off?

MARISSA JARET WINOKUR, FORMER CONTESTANT, "DANCING WITH THE STARS": To get the boot? You know, after making it into the semifinals and being into the final four, it was OK, it really was. I was so happy to make it as far as I did.

KING: Why did you enter?

WINOKUR: Why? I begged them to let me do it. I wanted to learn how to dance and wanted to show women it doesn't matter what size you are, to got out and dance and feel sexy and do it.

KING: So it was enjoyable for you?

WINOKUR: Oh, my gosh, I loved every minute of it.

KING: OK, Len, tell us about this year's crew.

LEN GOODMAN, "DANCING WITH THE STARS" JUDGE: It's been a great cast the whole way through.

KING: Really?

GOODMAN: Oh, I think it's been fantastic. And I think this final coming up is unique that we've got three -- the best three, I think. And, also, each one of the three has been top of the leader board during the course of the show. So they've all been number one at one stage or another.

KING: So no surprises that these are the three?

GOODMAN: That's right. I think it's great.

KING: What is your evaluation, Bruno?

BRUNO TONIOLI, "DANCING WITH THE STARS" JUDGE: I agree it's great because there were up and downs during the season. One week one was number one. Then the next week somebody drops down. But overall, I think the three worthy of the final are there. And it's so exciting and unpredictable. It all rests on their dance.

KING: How good was Marissa when ...

GOODMAN: Marissa, I thought was a revelation. I loved working - because she's got such a bubbly personality.

KING: Does she?

GOODMAN: Oh, it's a secret, actually.

KING: Her problem is shyness.

GOODMAN: Yes, she's a little bit reserved. That is her problem.


GOODMAN: No, I think she was great and I loved watching her with her partner Tony. You know, with all due respect, when you look at Marissa, you don't expect her to be a great, elegant dancer. She's not 5'10" and as thin as a pencil, and yet she came out and she produced great dancing.

KING: Because of the way she is, Bruno, was it tough to eliminate her?

TONIOLI: It's very difficult. She's very -- the personality is so engaging and embracing. And she works it with the face like you have no idea and the hair. You know, she does work it. And it's very hard for us. But we have to criticize -- not criticize but comment as we see it.

KING: Was it painful to be let go?

WINOKUR: It was. Of course it was. It was sad to go. But I went out with nines and eights. So it wasn't like I blew it and got the boot. I did my best.

KING: What do you think of the three finalists?

WINOKUR: Oh, they're awesome! They're great. The whole way I was thinking it would be those three in the end. But then I thought I'd sneak in them. KING: Can you forecast the winner?

WINOKUR: I can't. It changed each time. In the beginning my money was on Jason and then I thought I'd vote for Cristian and Kristi is bringing it. So throughout the whole competition, my vote has changed, too.

KING: What's the one thing you look for, Len?

GOODMAN: I'm the old fuddy-duddy English ballroom dancing.

KING: You mean they have to be technically perfect?

GOODMAN: I look for the technique, I look for the posture. I look for the hold. In the ballroom dancing I want to see elegance and in the Latin American I want to see rhythmic tic. So I'm the fuddy- duddy looking at the technique.

KING: Would you say you're tough?

GOODMAN: I try not to be tough. I try to be honest. I think that's what my job is.

KING: Bruno, what do you look for?

TONIOLI: Well, I think technique itself doesn't sell a performance. There has to be a technique. Obviously if mistakes are terrible you've just got to assess it. For me, I want to see something that takes me away from my seat as a judge. I want to feel like I am part of the performance. I want to be engaged by believable, strong performance. And they have fun with it.

KING: so technically, you could be technically a better dancer, number one might be a better dancer than number two but number two might sell the dance better?

TONIOLI: Better. And that on television, on film, anywhere, on the stage, technique itself is a mean to an end. A total performer - when you look at Fred Astaire, he makes it look like it's a walk in the park. That is a great artist and that, it is difficult to do.

GOODMAN: This is the judges - So I think you get a good balance from the judges.

KING: You don't always get along. Watch.

TONIOLI: Here we go.


GOODMAN: I wasn't that struck on the start. I don't like that dancing when you do a bit and then the partner does and then you do a bit and then you do a bit.

TONIOLI: It's choreographer.

GOODMAN: I tell you what it's doing. It's time wasting.

I'm not a big fan of that boogaloo hip-hop dancing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids are going to love it and I'm going to love it.


KING: OK, without prejudging, is there a favorite?

GOODMAN: No. I think they're all in with a chance. They're all in with a good chance.

TONIOLI: I agree totally for once. It's very difficult to assess this year because each and every one of them has strengths. They all have the wild card and God knows what's going to happen.

WINOKUR: I think it's a complete - I can't pick. You can't pick ...

KING: Thank you all very much. We'll see you next year. They always come back, the judges.

You'll be back.

WINOKUR: I'll be back.

KING: Hey, we've got a new feature on our Web site. It's called "About Last Night." I tell you what I liked about the latest LARRY KING LIVE. You go to and see for yourself.

Everybody is going to dance later. Stay right there or you'll miss it. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Before we continue with our panel and the dancing. Anderson Cooper will host "A.C. 360." I told Anderson off the air that I was going to nominate him to be on next year's "Dancing with the Stars."

Go ahead, you do it.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it didn't work out too well for Tucker Carlson. I don't think I'm going to go there. I don't think anybody needs to see me dance.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "360," game on, Barack Obama today forcefully firing back at John McCain after John McCain's criticism for Obama for saying he'd negotiate with terrorists, then McCain went back at Obama again later this afternoon and got a little help from his friends including Mike Huckabee making a poorly-received joke about pointing a gun at Obama.

We'll show you all the back and forth, put it into context and tell you why some think this may all be a good thing for Barack Obama.

Also tonight, some people call him the prophet of God. Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is back in court today. We'll tell you what happened and bring you the latest on the saga of those kids on the FLDS compound in Texas. New reports that the state's case against the sect could be falling apart.

All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: That's "A.C. 360," 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We have a couple of minutes and then we're going to see you dance.

Jason, what do you make of all the hookup rumors? That it is easy and common for stars to fall in love? It's happened in the past.

TAYLOR: I wouldn't make anything of it. I don't pay attention to the tabloids and all the gossip and that kind of stuff. I kind of stay out of it and obviously they caught Derek (ph) and Shannon (ph) kissing on the beach but I think that was part of their package.

KING: Anyone have a thought on it?

SLIWINSKA: We're all professional.

KING: Have you ever fallen in love with a partner?

SLIWINSKA: With my husband, yes, he's my professional partner.

KING: Ohh.

DE LA FUENTE: I guess if you're single and you're spending a lot of time together and dancing ...

KING: Are you single?

DE LA FUENTE: No, I'm married and I don't take it further home. It's a good start, dancing.

KING: And you wound up with your partner from last year, right?

BALLAS: There are things that come out in the tabloids.

KING: You did or you didn't?

BALLAS: We're just really good friends. Always been good friends.

KING: An e-mail from Mina in Brookline, Massachusetts: "What's the most exciting thing about being in the finals?" -- Kristi.

YAMAGUCHI: Oh, I'm so excited about doing the freestyle, I think, coming into this competition. That was always a goal. Let's just make it to the freestyle freestyle. And dance when there's no rules and you can kind of do your own style. So I'm looking forward to that.

KING: Cristian, what he the most exciting thing?

DE LA FUENTE: Being able to have a plan, to set a goal and being able to achieve it, going all the way, since the beginning we wanted to make it to the finals. And being able to get there is just a great feeling.

TAYLOR: I thought I'm going to totally embarrass myself and thought I would be the first one to go home. I came in with very low expectations. I didn't want to embarrass myself totally.

DE LA FUENTE: Yet every week you keep going and surviving.

KING: Did your teammates talk to you through this?

TAYLOR: Yes, I have a lot of guys that text me and called me and been supportive. They watch the show every week. And they've had some great things to say and some not so kind things to say. But overall it's been very, very supportive.

KING: And you've all been viewers of the show, right?


KING: OK, Guys. We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we're going to boogie. Did I say that? We'll be right back.


KING: The finalists have all assembled now in front of our giant screen and they're going to give us a twirl and show you what they do leading up to their own competition in the finals.

We begin with Cristian de la Fuente and his partner Cheryl Burke. They'll start it out with a samba and be dancing to my man Harry Belafonte's "Sweetheart from Venezuela."


DE LA FUENTE: Then down, down, down, down.

KING: How about them apples? That was great. That was great.

DE LA FUENTE: Thank you.

KING: Next up, Kristi Yamaguchi. Her partner is Mark Ballas. They will dance the tango to Arthur Murray's "Midnight Tango."


KING: Great. That was great. I salute you.

And now our final group and one of these three are going to be the winner. This is -- by the way, if you want to see more of these finalists, you can catch the excitement on a ABC season finale Monday night, May 19, 8:00 Eastern. Someone will take home the coveted mirror ball trophy. Not one dime, but the coveted mirror ball trophy. One senses ABC makes a lot of money on this show. Our final dancers are Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska. They will conclude the show with the foxtrot to Ella Fitzgerald's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."


KING: That's great. What are we going to do now? Are we all going to dance?

TAYLOR: You're going to -- it's your turn, Larry.

DE LA FUENTE: Go ahead, Larry.


KING: Oh, my God! This is called Jewish heaven.


BALLAS: The ABC season finale Monday, May 19 at 8:00 Eastern. Find out who takes home the coveted mirrored ball trophy.


TONIOLI: Good job, Larry.

KING: Thanks. That's my version of the foxtrot. You guys are all terrific, and this has been a really wonderful -- we love doing this every year with "Dancing with the Stars." We know how happy you are to be part of this. We know how hard the work is. And I wish you all nothing but the best. I know you don't -- there's no financial reward here, so this is purely, purely love of the show, love of dancing, love of participating and of course love of competition.

You guys want to win. Right?

YAMAGUCHI: Absolutely.

KING: You want your partner to win. Thank you all very much. Best of luck Monday night.

SLIWINSKA: Thank you.

KING: That's all going to happen Monday night.

By the way, it's not too late to take part in our Quick Vote. Who do you want to win "Dancing with the Stars"? Go to our Web site right now and weigh in.

On Monday's show, Denise Richards will be here. She's going to talk about Charlie, Richie, the kids and more. Denise Richards on LARRY KING LIVE Monday night. And over the weekend on our repeat shows, we'll repeat Barbara Walters and Ryan Seacrest.

Right now it's time for "A.C. 360" and Anderson Cooper who will dance next year -- Anderson.